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OCTOBER 13, 2001

Schumacher declares 2001 his best year yet

WORLD CHAMPION Michael Schumacher has put his dominant 2001 campaign with Ferrari down as his favorite of the four titles accumulated to date.

After a dominant start to the year with back-to-back victories in Australia and Malaysia, he continued in a year of metronomic consistency to reach the podium ten times in the next 12 races, with only wheel failure in San Marino and engine failure in Germany halting his run of success.

David Coulthard emerged as his only potential challenger in the opening third of the year after a storming victory in Brazil followed up with another top spot in Austria, but McLaren's unreliability took away from the Scotsman's most impressive season to date and, with the Williams-BMW-Michelin combination still finding its feet, left Schumacher to put wrap up the title in Hungary two months ago.

"There is no doubt this was my best year. Everything was right there," said Schumacher. "It was satisfying, too, to secure the title so early. I've never done it so quickly, and that means we can look forward to an even stronger Ferrari period in the future."

The 32-year-old German's eight victories up to Japan took him past Alain Prost in the all-time winner's ranking on 52 victories, and one more this weekend will see him match his own best season tally of nine wins - a record shared only by Nigel Mansell in his equally dominant 1992 title season.

The champion's satisfaction with his wins this year is so great that he can't even name the best of them. "I couldn't mention one," he said. "Even if I picked a couple it would be too few. There were many races where everything worked so well together: the car, the engineering and also me."